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Anti-death-penalty prosecutor challenges Florida governor

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala speaks with reporters about her decision to not pursue the death penalty during her administration./ Photo: File, WMFE

A state attorney says Florida’s governor overstepped his authority when he pulled her off a case after she said she would not pursue the death penalty in any cases.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala made the assertion Monday in a legal motion that asks a judge to allow her to present that argument in court. The motion claims that allowing the governor to interfere could undermine Florida’s judicial system.

Gov. Rick Scott removed Ayala from Loyd’s case and reassigned it to another state attorney after Ayala made her announcement against the death penalty Thursday.

More than 100 current and former judges and lawyers send a letter to the governor calling for a reversal of the move. The parties in the case, including Ayala’s replacement, will meet again next week to discuss the motion.

However, Ayala does not want to hold up the process and further impact the families. “This is a time sensitive case,” her office said in a statement. “Ms. Ayala would like to see the successful prosecution of Markeith Loyd.”

Markeith Loyd is charged with first-degree murder in the killings of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton and his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon. Monday’s court appearance was scheduled to be a status hearing where Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Frederick Lauten would check in with the prosecution and the defense.

At the hearing, Loyd, who is representing himself, said he’s not receiving proper medical attention and he’s not able to use the phone to prepare for his case. The judge says these are issues that a lawyer could help with, and again recommended Loyd seek council.

A spokeswoman for the governor didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Monday.

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